The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone. August 2012.

Dear Rowley,

Do you play the stock market darling? When I’ve got a few shekels I am seriously considering it. Of course only in a Mapp & Lucia fashion: ‘Siriami she said darkly’. I think what with the Olympics and Paralympics athletes being given fifteen condoms each for the duration of the games, I’d be investing in Latex right now. Speaking of the Parajubolympics, Bloomsbury en masse is dreading it: not the sport per se but the disruption to the Bloomsbury Setters.

I popped in to see Gail at Capri this morning (the dry cleaner not the island) and we are of one opinion that because nobody can park any more in Bloomsbury and we can’t put our rubbish out for collection, our Council Tax should be waived for the duration. And another thing! I’ve been doing some financial spring cleaning. Best thing I’ve done for years.

First, I revoked the old will though, to be honest, it was terrific fun changing it every time somebody familial crossed me. As you know, health problems have made work problematic over the past months and I needed some help from my bank HSBC. I’ve banked with them for over twenty years. I rang HSBC Advance and this charming Scottish boy listened to my story of woe and basically threw me a rope.

In order for Jock to do so he had to list my income and outgoings. I borrowed a line from my friend Scott ‘Bespoke Banter’ Wimsett who on being asked about his daily expenses told his accountant, ‘how do I know how much money I blow in a week on lip gloss and Champagne?’ But he persevered despite my many sniping comments about Bankers, the Inland Revenue and corrupt utilities companies.

Isn’t it amazing that when you ask for help sometimes people come up trumps? I’ve never asked for a hand out in my life but comes a time when you have to put your hands up and say, ‘where do I go to surrender?’ As I said to the lady in the Holborn HSBC Advance shop, I am increasingly tiring of rude and aggressive people in London. The noise alone is enough to make you reach for the Aspirin bottle. Did you know chemists can’t sell you more than two packets? Suicide watch I suspect.

Speaking of watching, doesn’t it make you spit that our local councils are using New Labour’s anti-terrorist legislation to snoop on our bins, our cigarette butts dropped and our spending habits? It is increasingly clear that protection of datas is one of the greatest weapons we all have in our armoury. I don’t have store cards, loyalty cards or any other card that tracks what I buy or where I shop.

Financial housekeeping is terribly healthy don’t you find? We’ve all got to get our affairs in order at some point. Speaking of which, I’ve just watched the most marvellous film called The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone. It stars Vivien Leigh and concerns an ageing actress who flees to Rome when her husband dies. She falls in love with a gigolo called Paolo who is played by Warren Beatty. Vivien Leigh was only 47 when the film was made in 1961. She had suffered a life of manic depression and it had now begun to show on her beautiful face.

The script was an adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play and you know I don’t like Tennessee Williams. I think his plays are cruel and his tortured older ladies portrayals of himself. Suddenly Last Summer is such an unpleasant tale. When Katharine Hepburn finished filming, she marched up to the director and slapped his face at the sadism of the script. A Streetcar Named Desire is equally hideous. The denoument when Blanche Dubois as played by Vivien Leigh is led off to the nut house breaks my heart.

Anyway, back to Mrs Stone. She is ensnared in a trap set by Lotte Lenya’s pimpish Contessa and sprung by Paolo. Lenya is magnificent as is the late, great Coral Browne who plays Mrs Stone’s worldly best friend. Love Coral Browne, don’t you? She and husband Vincent Price used to flick through copies of Spotlight saying ‘had him, had him, had her’. La Farmer knew Coral. She said Coral Browne was the funniest woman in London.

I remember a great Coral Browne story. She’d just taken communion in the Brompton Oratory when a gay friend of hers sidled up and tried to make idle gossip about a mutual girlfriend. ‘Please darling!’ says Coral, ‘not when I’m in a state of f****** grace’. People swore a lot more freely in the 1960s. Now everybody’s so darned sensitive. You can’t post an abusive Twitter without the thought police trying to sue you. People are occasionally abusive but only because they are retaliating to abuse.

This puts me in mind of a comment I heard recently. A friend of mine was called ‘the carer’ in a relationship. ‘You don’t need a carer. What you need is someone who cares’ says he. How true. Back to Mrs Stone. What is remarkable about the film is not the screenplay: it is the costumes. Vivien Leigh looks absolutely sensational in a Paris couture wardrobe and jewels to die for. Her hair is dreadful but the clothes would make Audrey Hepburn look like the little match girl.

Until next time…